Haunted Hunter Pace

This weekend was the Haunted Hunter Pace at Fox Run here in Columbia. Jackie and I were partners. She was riding Fassa and I was on Coco. Getting ready for the pace, we were thinking that it would be really fun to dress up and had costumes planned and everything. Coco was going to be a giraffe, Fassa was going to be a lion, and Jackie and I were going to be Bindy the Jungle Girl and Steve Irwin. Then, we realized that there was a lot of Halloween happenings on Saturday night and that it would be difficult to get to bed before say... 3am, and we decided that we would just ride and have fun and forget the costumes.

Sunday morning, we woke up at 6:45, left Jackie's around 7am, and made a quick stop a MickeyD's (where we spent $5 on hash browns alone) before we got to the barn, barely beating the trailer. We loaded our tack and horses and were on our way. We got to Fox Run at about 8am, took a few minutes to change and get ready and sit around recuperating before we started to get the horses ready. We were supposed to start at 9:10, but Jackie wanted to be on by 8:30 to warm Fassa up. We started tacking around 8:30 and were on our horses by about 8:45. Both of the horses were fantastic in the warm up ring, jumping everything like superstars! What good ponies!!! :D

We ended up going out on the course at 9:12, which was weird because Brittany and Melissa were supposed to be right before us but we hadn't even seen them on their horses yet. Fassa and Coco were very good!!! The trails were filled with spooky decorations, and if one of the horses was scared about it, the other one stepped up and passed it without a problem. When we got out to the field with the jumps, Coco just about went crazy! He remembers all the fun we had in this field last year and was totally pumped to go again! He took everything like a champ! No refusals. The only thing that was close was a white oxer that was downhill... He was cantering very nicely to it, then proceeded to stop and put his head down like he was going to smell it, so I dropped my reins to let him have his head to look at it. The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air!! My horse had taken the jump from a complete standstill and it had caught me so off guard that I didn't even know what to do! :p This is why I love him!!!! He consistently got weird distances to the tire jump that was under the trees, but I was very happy with him, because he was being a total rockstar about everything!!!

Back into the woods and we trotted as much as we good, galloping anywhere we thought it was safe to do so, and our horses were absolutely loving it!!! It was actually harder to hold them back than it was to get them going. They were having a total ball. Then we got to the big field where you're supposed to make 2 laps before the finish line. We galloped the first half of the first lap. Then Coco started to slow, so I thought it would be good to let him walk a little bit. However, he had other plans... he started slow gaiting and jigging until I would let him gallop again... so much for a flat walk!!! So we took off again. On our last lap, as we were riding next to the road, there was a trailer coming down the road and both of our horses saw that as a challenge, trying to beat the trailer to the end of the road and the entrance to Fox Run!!! They were FLYING!!! We got to the road and it was so hard to stop them that we had to hope that the trailer had seen us and would slow for us. Finished. And our horses couldn't be more proud of themselves. They needed about 45 minutes of walking to cool their jets.

We got a ride back to CEC. The ponies got immediately turned out. And we went home to nap. Overall, it was a very successful day!


The End is Near!!!

The end of show season is definitely upon us, and it makes me and Coco very sad. :(

Sorry I haven't updated in a while! Life has been crazy busy! So, I'll just give the reader's digest version of our 3 most recent shows: Dunnabeck Horse Trials in Carbondale, Illinois, the William Woods Jumper Derby, and the Fun Show at Sunny Oaks.

Dunnabeck was an incredible horse show! We both had a great time! Dressage went fine, although the fact that the ring was lined with huge horse-eating letters made it difficult to stay on the rail and pay attention to the test. It wasn't our best dressage score ever, but not our worst, either- 45.7. The cross country course was FUN!!! Very inviting, but some challenging hills and interesting-looking jumps. Lots of weird turns to get from one thing to the next, so I kind of felt like I had to be extremely sure that I knew the course, but it ended up riding pretty well. We ended up going double clear in cross country, and at the end, Amanda said that Coco was telling her that he wants to do Novice next year! The stadium course was tricky, lots of weird shadows and intersting jumps for the ponies to look at. It was one of those courses that you walk and it seems straightforward and then it's more challenging than you expected to ride. By the time we got to stadium, Mr. Coco was markedly tired. We ended up pulling 2 rails, just because he was looking at the jumps and decided to jump them sideways. A final score of 53.7 put us in 7th place! :) Not too shabby!!! It was awesome to show with Amity Farms again for this event. Everyone there is so helpful and nice! I really think that Amity is the eventing version of CEC, so I feel right at home when I'm with them.

Best birthday present a girl could ask for!!! We showed in the low hunters (2'6") and my horse was actually acting like he knew what he was doing in the hunter ring. It was incredible, he had a nice stride, didn't look at any of the jumps, and was actually controllable for once in a long time! He looked great in the undersaddle class too. Hunters frustrates me SOOO much, though, because despite the fact that my horse was awesome, we still got shafted, getting 4th and 5th in the 2 over fences classes and 6th on the flat, probably because he's a saddlebred. Whatever. We still had jumpers to prove ourselves. We entered in the low jumper training speed class and the low jumper derby. Coco was a rock star, having a total blast during the speed class. We had a little trouble with the roll back to the combination, but he pulled through and I just let him do his thing. We took the fast route to the bank and he was perfect! We ended up 2nd in the class of 20 horse/rider combinations. No judges to say that we aren't cut out for jumping in that class! Then we went in the derby, which used every jump available. Coco knocked a rail, of a jump that was in the same place as the jump we knocked a rail on last year, so we didn't make it into the jump-off, but he had a blast!!! I was very, very happy with him. I think this show was great to show the people of Mid-MO that my saddlebred is a phenomenal jumper! Some people were upset by our finish in the speed class, but there's no way to despute that, it's all time. That's why we love jumpers!

The show started at 9:30am, and our barn alone had 10 people showing in the crossrails and 18" class, so the day went by extremely slowly! We were entered in the 2'6", 2'9", and 3' jumpers. Coco spent the day napping next to Storm, another horse we had tied to the trailer with him. We finally started riding at about 4pm. The first jumping class went well! Coco refused a plank jump that had polka dots on it, but got over it and left every other jump up. Everyone in the class had 4 penalties, though, so we were able to do the jump-off. We would have been first if we hadn't let Grace do the whole thing from the beginning, so we ended up 2nd. We were 5th in the one flat class we did- more proof of the saddlebred curse, because he looked awesome! We're really starting to get the whole dressage/framing up thing down! The 2'9" class was fine. We knocked a rail, but ended up 2nd still. Going into the 3rd class, which was supposed to be 3' jumpers, one of the girls suggested that we make it higher than that, so they did- I was nervous! The course was basically all roll backs, and the only show where we've done higher than 3' was William Woods last weekend. Plus, Coco was increasingly anticipating the turns, because he's too darn smart for his own good. Going into the line, he dropped his shoulder in an attempt to prepare for the upcoming turn, and in attempting to hold him up with my right leg, I lost my left stirrup. I almost regained my balance between the line, then saw the second jump and knew this could only end badly. He took the second jump and immediately dropped his shoulder to the right to make the really sharp roll back to the next jump and I just slid off his left shoulder because I couldn't go with him. He stepped on my right forearm, but no damage other than that. I got back on and we did the line, making him go STRAIGHT after, and then we were done. I think that's the first time I've fallen off Coco in competition...? Almost 2 years without a competition fall... I'll take it! :)

We don't really have any shows in the near future, so the plan is to give Coco some time off from training. We're going to get back to the basics: riding bareback in the pasture, lunging with side reins, and working on my position. He doesn't need to work hard. He's had a great show season and I couldn't be happier with him. I don't know what I've done to deserve such an incredible horse, but I love him to death and I think we both just need to stop worrying about winning and start loving each other again.



The farrier came to the barn last week after Heritage and did Coco's feet. Almost immediately, Coco was lame on his front end- the feet with shoes.

In the beginning, he worked out of it- probably because he's the type of horse that gets excited and ignores the pain. Men....

Anyways, he kept getting worse over the course of the week. I was supposed to have a dressage lesson Tuesday. We brought him into the arena and I rode for approximately 5 minutes before we decided that he was too off in the front to continue. So I had to ride Fassa- YUCK!!! :( Kris and Amanda both agreed that we should call the farrier and have him look at Coco.

He had Wednesday off, because I thought that might help.

Farrier came out Thursday morning. Coming out of the stall, Coco looked like he was walking on three legs. TOTALLY CRIPPLED!!!! My heart sunk. Jason, our farrier, watched him trot and immediately admitted that it might be his fault- a hot nail maybe? Turns out that it is an abscess on his front left foot that was painful for him when the inside was clamped. Poor pony!

So currently, my horse is on stall rest with 2x daily 20 minute epsom salt soakings with sugar and iodine hoof packings between. And it doesn't help that he's starting to get grumpy about having to be taken care of and having to stay in a stall- all things he hates. Men...

I'm starting to get really nervous about Dunnabeck, which is the show we're planning on going to next weekend. If this abscess doesn't come out soon, I don't know what I'm going to do. I really don't want to lose all that money on entries. Plus, I really wanted to go. And I really wanted to go with Coco, not some other horse that I don't know as well.

I guess there's still time, I'm just starting to freak out. :(


Heritage Park Horse Trials

My first show without Kris, my trainer! I had never been to a horse show before I got to college and started riding with her. She has been at every show I have ever attended, so this was going to be weird for me to be there without her.  

I went with Amity Farms and their trainer Amanda.

The weekend started out on late note. We left the barn about an hour and a half later than expected. I also felt bad because they ended up having to back a 6 horse trailer all the way down CEC’s driveway. We made it work, though.

Then, to top it all off, the trailer got a flat tire right after we get into Kansas. Luckily, it was one of the wheels that had one right next to it, so it was easy to change. We were back on the road after only 9 minutes to change the flat and fixing minor damage to the trailer itself.

We got to the show grounds and immediately started doing cross country course walks. Amanda and Rachel went first to walk the Novice course. Then it was my turn.

It was so cool!! We used a meter wheel to figure out where every increment of 350 meters was and made note of that on the course map so I would know when I should hit the minute marks. I have never done that before and was amazed that people get that detailed. Usually when we do course walks with Kris, we look at the jumps and say, “Hey! We should jump that!” :p

Then we rode. We had an incredible dressage warm up. We actually looked like we knew what we were doing! However, we could only do it on progressively smaller circles. At one point, I asked how to steer while keeping Coco in the nice dressage frame with bend, and Amanda said “it’ll come with time.” I was alright with that, until I started thinking about how I was going to actually do my dressage test the next day. I guess we would figure that out when we got there.

Walked the course one more time before I was totally exhausted and then we went to dinner at Texas Roadhouse, which was extremely crowded, even at 9pm. I called Terry, a friend I was supposed to be staying with, as soon as we were finished, but he was having trouble with his boyfriend and I didn’t want to be an imposition. My mom was also just getting to Olathe, so I called her to see where she was. I met her at her hotel, we went to iHop (because she hadn’t eaten yet), and then went to bed. I was absolutely exhausted!

Got to the show grounds around 8am the next morning and pretty immediately went to the dressage ring to watch Amanda and her horse Parker ride their Training dressage test. Waited around for a while for Rachel, another rider with Amity, to ride her Novice dressage test. Walked my cross country course one more time. Then we started to get ready for our dressage test. We had another really good warm up, though again on a small circle.

The test went pretty well. The first half (the trotting and circles part), went pretty well. Then we walked and lost it right after we did our free walk right, before we cantered. The canter the first direction was fine, but after I used counter bend (out of habit) to get the canter lead, I couldn’t get him back onto an inside bend and from that point forward, he was either on the bit and in the middle of the arena or on the correct track with his head in the air.

I walked out of the ring feeling defeated. I knew we hadn’t done well, but at least he didn’t kick out at the canter transitions like he had been and we had good bend for some of the trots. We definitely didn’t do as well as our best test ever or as bad as our worst test ever, so I guess that’s ok. Sure enough, we had a 42.9. It was ok, though, cross country and stadium are our strong events!

We had a few hours to wait until we would run cross country. Coco got a flake of hay, some electrolytes, and lots of water to keep him company while I went to watch Rachel (I had missed Amanda because she did cross country 10 minutes after my dressage test). Rachel did great! Jonah looked at the water, but was great about everything else that I was able to see. She went clear!

Our turn to run cross country. We had some practice jumps. Amanda was great about teaching me to get off Coco’s back while he’s galloping and sit right before the fences. She also mentioned that if I keep my hands high before the fences, Coco can’t look at what’s in front of them, like scary red flowers or weird designs on the jumps. Coco was totally ready. Excited but not crazy.

We walked calmly out of the start box, starting our gallop a few feet after, which was good for him. Took the first fence, no problem. He wasn’t sure about the second jump, because it was in a weird shaded area and around a turn, so it kind of snuck up on him, but he took it just fine. Then we got to 4, an easy ramp on a slight uphill after a slight downhill. There was no way Coco was even going to look at this jump. Too bad horses always make us into liars! Sure enough, he refused it- OUR FIRST XC REFUSAL EVER!!!! He took it just fine the second time, when I was more stern with him to remind him that I was in charge here, not him. Five was fine. The combination at 6 could have been scary, but I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. Seven, the step up, was easier than I had expected it to be. Eight was also better than expected because I was able to get a better approach to it than I thought from the course walks. Nine and 10 were easy. Then we got to the water. The water was basically a puddle. It looked like they had set up a nice area for a water complex and then just forgot to start filling it until it was too late. So there was an outer ring of normal looking gravel, then a ring of bright white gravel before the water actually started. Coco acted like Tantor from Tarzan with the water, and we sidestepped around the edge until we ran into a bush and were forced to get into it. The rest of the course rode awesome and we ended up 2 seconds below optimum time. That watch was soooooo cool!!!!

After lots of hose downs and walking, I got to practice my hand at poultice before Coco got to be free from me for the night. We went to dinner at Ruby Tuesday. My mom didn’t want to come- she doesn’t like eating out and was extremely tired, so I took her back to the hotel first. Then after dinner, Amanda offered to feed Coco so I could go to hang out with my mom. We went to Target to get water and Gatorade. Then Terry wanted me to come hang out with him at the salon where he works. I showered and got ready then headed over there.

It was awesome to see Terry. I felt terrible that I was so exhausted and didn’t really feel like doing anything. After the salon, he and his friends were talking about going out, so we went back to his house so he could get ready. I definitely fell asleep while he was getting ready. I felt terrible, but I ended up driving him back to his car and then going back to the hotel with my mom.

Another early day on Sunday. We got to the show grounds around 8am. Watched some people in the upper levels do the stadium course before we started to get ready. It was frustrating because they didn’t have the course up for the different levels, just one course posted and they took some of the jumps out for the different levels.

During our warm up, Coco was acting like he was asleep. Amanda said that I would have to make sure that I keep leg on him between the jumps to keep him moving forward. As we went into the ring, he woke up. Suddenly, I couldn’t stop him. The course rode fabulously, until the turn from 9 to 10, the last jump. Coco (and I both, probably) dropped his shoulder to the right like crazy after the jump. I tried to straighten him out before we made the turn, but we had already made the majority of the turn and he didn’t realize that the next jump was so close. He wanted to take the long distance to 10, but I made him take the shorter one and we dropped a rail. We ended the weekend in 14th place (out of 17 who finished) and a score of 66.9.

Loading the horses was easy and the ride home was quiet, except for our stop at Burger King when Pricilla was forcing us all to yell colors every time she burped… Long story. They were able to drive the trailer down the hill this time and back up in the trailer spaces and unloading Coco was easy. He was definitely ready to be home.

Overall, it was a great learning experience weekend, we didn’t get eliminated, and we survived our first horse show without Kris!! YAY!!!

Next, we get to try our luck at Dunnabeck in Carbondale, IL September 17-18. The only way we can go is up!!! :D


Greg Best Clinic

I have never done a clinic before. I have been riding for 8 years and have never been in a clinic. Lame...

Anyway, we went to a clinic with Greg Best at Fox Run. I rode on Friday and today, Sunday.

On Friday, we rode with a girl who was riding a stallion and another girl riding a mare. I'm not going to lie, I was extremely intimidated. Not only did these girls act and look like they had been riding forever, but they both knew each other and were on very conversational terms with the clinician, as they had both ridden with him in years past. Plus, Coco and I come from a relatively ghetto barn and I didn't have my trainer with me, which stressed me out even more. My friend Jackie was there, though, and she was great moral support! :)

Greg immediately was all over me for my lower leg being too far forward. He demonstrated how difficult it is to get out of the saddle with my leg too far forward and said that I should never ask him if my leg is far enough back, because it never will be. It will always feel like I'm overexaggerating how far back it is, but it will only look barely far enough back to anyone else. Good to know. He also mentioned that I have a terrible problem with riding with my upper body twisted to the right, always looking to the inside, no matter the direction. Also interesting. He said that I should try to focus on keeping my eye to the outside and my shoulders to the inside. He was also quick to realize that tracking left is both mine and Coco's bad direction. My upper body looks OK tracking right, but as soon as we turn to the left, it looks silly, because my body is still facing the right and Coco is flexed to the right. At this point, I felt like a bit of a failure, as he definitely said more about my position than anyone elses. :( He was brutally honest, but that was ok. I hadn't come to the clinic to be told how awesome I am as a rider, but to learn about what I could fix.

Then we started to jump. I tried to focus on keeping Coco consistent to the jumps and following him with my body. We had a few good jumps and a few not so good jumps. Greg Best asked if Coco was a machine, and I responded that he pretty much was, very rarely refusing jumps and generally liking his job. Greg went on to say that he may be a machine, but he's a "crooked machine." We jumped a few courses, nothing too huge or exciting. I really had to focus on keeping my shoulders controlled, especially to the left. I have a tendency to drop to the inside after jumps, which allows my horse to drop to the inside, which is not good for either of us. Then, Coco had to go and make a liar out of me. Coming to a jump across the diagonal, Coco just wasn't into it and ended up refusing for no good reason. I got after him a little bit with my spurs, he kicked out, and we circled and took the jump just fine. Later, Greg was telling a story about how he got kicked at a clinic once, and I felt terrible. Not only was he all over me for my position, but now, I almost killed him. Now I get why he doesn't like me! As the lesson was ending, Greg said that he was actually very impressed with how I jumped Coco. He said that he was initially worried how we would do over jumps because of my obvious flaws on the flat, but he thought I stayed with him over the jumps very well. He then suggested that I use Saturday to lunge Coco in side reins with the inside side rein one hole shorter than the outside, to encourage inside bend, joking that after that, all our problems would be solved and we'd be ready to go on Sunday.

Saturday Kris and I lunged Coco in side reins. He was very good to the right, but to the left, he had constant right bend, despite the left side rein being shorter than the right. I didn't know that was possible! He was very good with the position of his head, though, and giving to the bit. He walked into the bridle despite it encouraging him to put his head down and use his hind end more. I was actually very impressed with him. I don't often lunge him, and especially not in side reins, and he was really well behaved. A lunge whip would have been helpful to keep him out on the circle, but he wasn't pushy about coming inside or anything. I guess we'll have to practice using side reins more! :)

So today, the oragnizer of the clinic called and said that I wouldn't be able to ride until noon (I was supposed to ride at 9:30am), because the classes had to be switched around a little bit. I was fine with it. That meant I got to watch more of the people in the morning ride. He did this one exercise that I thought was very interesting. He would take both of the stirrups and leathers off the saddle, attach the leathers to themselves, and then put the whole contraption on top of the saddle, so that the stirrups are only connected to one another. This exercise encourages balance in the lower body, and we was using it for one rider to help with not changing the weight distribution in the saddle during flying lead changes.

I had 2 people riding with me. One had been in both of the previous groups and was on her third horse for the day, a thoroughbred with a tiny head. The other one had approached me earlier to ask if there were three people in our group, as she was hoping there would be more down time for her than on Saturday, when she had only 2 in her group. They were both very nice!

Greg first had us do a posting trot and mentioned that it would be helpful for all of us to practice the positng trot without stirrups to encourage the use of the correct muscle groups and solidify the position of the lower leg. He said that it doesn't matter how long we post the trot without stirrups but that we should be able to do it well. I thought he was asking us to actually do this exercise, so I dropped my stirrups. Greg immediately said "pretty good" and asked me to pick up my stirrups, which I did while continuing to post. He was very impressed that my leg didn't move while I was picking up the stirrups or after I had picked them up. He asked me to do this exercise several more times and said that I was able to keep my leg in postion better than anyone he had seen in a while. I was soooooo excited!!! Finally!!! Something he thought I did well!!!

Then we started jumping. I don't know what clicked in Coco's head today, but he was a jumping fool. He was taking the jumps like they were nothing, getting good distances to pretty much everything. I just kept thinking about trying to keep his strides consistent by counting 1,2,1,2... in my head and it worked pretty well. Greg got mad at me during the warm up for looking for the lead after the jump and had me calling out whether the lead was correct or not without looking. It was really good practice. Something Kris has me do at home, but not nearly enough.

So then we started to do courses, courses with left turns... well, they had right turns, too, but the left turns were the only ones that were hard. Coco would come off jumps to the left on his right lead and swap the front end only when I would ask for the lead change, which is just awkward. Greg asked what percentage of the time my horse lands from a jump and can be trusted to switch to the correct lead if he is incorrect. The answer was 0%. My horse will never switch to the correct lead after a jump. He is perfectly content to continue on the incorrect lead or have the front end correct and the hind end incorrect. Annoying!!! So Greg posed a challenge. I would get a point for every simple change I did correcting Coco to go from the incorrect lead to the correct lead. I would get no points for landing on the correct lead and keeping the canter to the next fence. And I would get negative one point for swapping the front end and not the hind end or for coming off a jump on the correct lead and bringing him down to the trot. Sounds simple enough, right? NO!!! It was VERY VERY VERY VERY hard!!! My horse anticipates everything. It also doesn't help that I tend to lean to the inside after the jumps and send mixed signals with my body by keeping my inside leg on him and my hips to the right of the saddle, but bringing my upper body to the left. Coco doesn't know if he should follow my hips and leg and stay right or follow my shoulders and go left. At first, he was hard to control enough to bring down to the trot. Then, when I was able to get him to trot, he would anticipate that I wanted him to pick up the opposite lead. Towards the end, he would kind wait for me to ask for the lead, but not really. What we were working on is control. Making Coco wait for me to tell him what to do. Me being the boss and Coco waiting for me. According to Greg Best, there is not such thing as give and take with horses, it should always be "the rider takes, and the horse gives." Coco should wait for me to tell him what to do instead of wanting to be in control. However, I also have to make sure I am asking him in a way that's consistent and correct. Towards the end, we were doing courses with a majority of left turns and starting to get some transitions with Coco waiting for me to tell him how long to trot before picking up a canter again, but it never did go particularly well. This is definitely something we need to work on. It was also nice to hear Greg remark that he was impressed with how I was handling myself. I was clearly frustrated with myself and my inability to control my body in a way that sends the correct signals to my horse, but at no point did I attempt to take my frustrations out on him. He said that this is a quality that speaks well of my personality.

In the end, Greg said that I have a lot of great qualities as a rider, like my ability to feel what I have underneath me and my patience, but he also remarked that I have a lot of things to work on, including my control of my body (he suggested yoga or ballet). He also said that Coco is a "cool horse," which made me very happy. It was definitely a great experience and I would be happy to do another clinic with Greg Best.

The weekend had gone so well! Something was bound to go wrong. Oh, and believe me, it did. Coco was totally terrible to load onto the trailer home. It was so bad that I was tempted to make him walk the 3.5 miles back to our barn. It was a straight load trailer, which may have been part of the problem, and he was by himself, which probably didn't help. We made three attempts to load where he got his front legs in, but then backed up before he would put his back legs on. Then, he started rearing. I attempted to get after him, but apparently mom isn't as effective as she should be and he ended up rearing and running away from me. Luckily, we were in a pasture, so there wasn't really anywhere for him to go. Some girls came over and helped us. They had a chain we used. Coco got into the trailer but then broke his halter trying to run out of it again. We got a spare halter and used the chain and he was almost in the trailer. I went to him him gently with the lead rope to encourage him to get on the trailer and he did a quick kick-out, hitting my left index finger. What a jerk. So then we got a lunge whip out and gently tapped him on the butt to encourage him to move forward and we finally got him onto the trailer. 30 minutes later. I felt so bad for the people helping me, but I really appreciated it! I definitely couldn't have done it without them!

We got home and Coco got a linament rub down and was turned out. I think he missed turnout, because he immediately went running away. I actually unloaded my car and put everything into my locker, something I rarely do when we get back to the barn after shows. Usually horse show stuff sits in my car for weeks before I do anything with it. I was proud of myself! :)

Overall, it was a good weekend! I think it was worth the money and I am definitely looking forward to going to the clinic again next year to show Greg Best all the progress Coco and I have made!


Is that a saddlebred?

It's become a running joke to see how many people ask me this. Either at shows or visitors to the barn. People never think my horse, being the breed that he is, should be able to do the things that he does- mainly, jumping.

Let me just start by saying that our barn is extremely inclusive... we offer saddleseat, western, and huntseat lessons. We have saddlebreds, thoroughbreds, a warmblood, a halflinger, an arabian, morgans, and many other types of horses deeming us extremely inclusive. I have watched saddleseat and western lessons given on thoroughbred horses and huntseat lessons given on saddlebreds. We definitely don't discriminate and I love it.

Before I had Coco, I knew that the top jumpers are breeds like thoroughbreds and warmbloods, but I never really understood how strange it would be for me to ride in jumper classes at shows and actually do well on my saddlebred. And let's get this straight from the beginning, he's a jumper, not a hunter, a jumper. He loves to jump WAY too much to be controllable and sensible in the hunter ring.

Anyway, here's our story. I got my horse, Coco, for my 21st birthday in September of 2009. During Christmas break of that year, I had a medical scare and needed to be on blood thinners for 6 months. My doctors specifically told me 2 things to avoid: no drinking alcohol and no riding. After about 2 months of trying to limit myself to groundwork, teaching him tricks, and loungeing, I had had enough. Being a junior in college and in absolute love with my horse, I told her that I couldn't possibly avoid each of those activities. The lack of horses and depression would eventually drive me to drink. So... I made a deal with my doctor- absolutely no drinking and no jumping, but I could ride, as long as I always wore a helmet.

Soo.... we started to do saddlebred shows, in western pleasure and hunter under saddle classes. I even bought a cowboy hat that has a helmet in it! It was actually a very fun show season given that almost our entire barn at the time would go to saddlebred shows together. I got to know a lot of really awesome people and go to fun places. But towards the end of the year, I began to grow sick of the fact that we never won anything. My horse was a hunter (at the time), who could jump the moon with good form, so it was frustrating to place lower than saddleseat-looking horses wearing hunt seat saddles.

Over the winter we worked on jumping and my horse and I both fell in love with being daredevils. After having him for about a year and a half, we finally felt like we trusted each other. We started to do show jumpers. Quite the leap from western pleasure to jumpers, but we don't judge!

During this time, something drove me to search for famous jumping saddlebreds. I did a variety of google searches. Clearly, if Hickstead, one of the best jumpers in the world is a PONY, there MUST be jumping saddlebreds out there in the Olympics and high level competition. My search yielded nothing. I only found articles about the grand possibility of saddlebreds in jumping but no concrete evidence of actual saddlebreds competing at high levels of jumping, eventing, or even dressage competition. I was (and still am) convinced that we would be the first!!!

We had a lot of success doing jumpers at the beginning of this season, until we started to get restless again. I have always wanted to do eventing, so I looked into shows in the area and found Queeny Park. People from my barn had been there before for hunter trials, but no one had ever done eventing- so we would try something new. At first, it was really hard to find someone to go with me, just because the fees for an event seem to be outrageous! However, I don't think they acutally seem too terrible when you consider all the fees they tack on at other shows. Plus, what other shows are there where you can do CROSS COUNTRY!!!???!!! My dream. Eventually, I was able to talk my friend Abby into going with me and another friend, Amy, to haul us there. It all worked out fabulously. The show went really well and Abby and I were on a horseshow high for about 2 weeks after the show had ended. We proceeded to find our next event, Hunter Oaks. It only made sense. Both of us are originally from the Chicago area and have friends in Bloomington- we would know where we were going and have people to stay with, so we decided to do it.

As they say, the rest is history. We're all obsessed. Me. Coco. Abby. Lena. Kris, our trainer. And even people from our barn who were jealous of our endeavors in the eventing world.

And I'm finding that eventers are much more inclusive than other types of horseshow people. At the saddlebred shows, we would always get docked in the hunter under saddle classes because he moves more like a thoroughbred than a sadddlebred. In western pleasure classes at saddlebred shows, we wouldn't do well because he carries his head too low, more like a western quarter horse than a saddlebred. Conventional hunters and jumpers always ask what breed he is and examine him like they've never a saddlebred before. Eventers, however, are turning out to the be most inclusive of all the different disciplines- at Queeny Park, only 3 people asked about his breed (one of which was amazed that he did so poorly on dressage and was convinced we wouldn't be able to raise our scores with cross country and jumping), and at Hunter Oaks, there was only one person who asked! It was incredible! Maybe part of the reason we're both so drawn to the sport of eventing is because of the inclusion offered to a variety of breeds. No one cares what breed your horse is, as long as you both love what you're doing. Sounds like the perfect equestrian sport to me! :D